For the 52nd General Assembly of the Organization of American States to meet its goal of “Together Against Inequality and Discrimination” – fighting corruption must be on the agenda. Transparency International urges governments to use this moment to take concrete actions to tackle corruption to create more equitable, democratic and sustainable societies.
Corruption and discrimination work together in a vicious cycle that exacerbates inequalities, harming the most marginalised.
Despite efforts to transform our economies and societies, Latin America and the Caribbean remains one of the most unequal regions in the world – in part because corruption continues to drive this rampant inequality. Across the region, elites with concentrated wealth capture political decision-making at the expense of the public good. Corruption undermines inclusive economic development and directs resources to those with economic and financial power and political connections rather than those who are most in need. The vast majority of people are thus deprived of access to necessities like food, water, education and quality health care. The COVID-19 pandemic led to worsening corruption and abuses and exacerbated social and economic inequalities, devastating Latin America and the Caribbean. Leaders must take bold and decisive action now to prevent the impact of such setbacks from plaguing the region for years to come.
Marginalised groups – women, girls, indigenous groups, LGBTQ communities, the elderly, migrants and Afro-descendants – feel the impact of this corruption most acutely, as outlined in Transparency International‘s report Defying Exclusion. Corruption robs these communities of access to public resources, justice and fundamental freedoms, restricting their political, economic and social rights and exacerbating discrimination in myriad ways.
Discrimination against these groups creates additional opportunities for corrupt officials to exploit them, as certain types of corruption are directly based in discrimination. Sextortion, a form of corruption in which authorities abuse their power to obtain sexual gratification, is one such intersection with discrimination that is common in the region. Women, girls, LGTBQ communities and migrants in Latin America are impacted by it most frequently. Recent research shows that one in five people in Latin America and the Caribbean experiences or knows someone who has experienced sextortion when accessing a government service such as health care or education. Corruption also facilitates human trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation as corrupt officials join in or enable the activities of criminal gangs.
For those facing intersecting systems of discrimination, the harms are compounded. Female migrants, for example, already face a harrowing journey – and too often encounter sextortion as well. It is common for officials to demand sexual acts for passports or to pass border patrols.
Corruption establishes systems of impunity that allow officials to abuse marginalised communities. In Latin America and the Caribbean, indigenous and LGBTQ communities see this repeatedly. Many indigenous people have had their historical land ravaged by illicit pollution, illegal logging and exploitative mining deals, but discrimination against these peoples continues to prevent them from accessing justice and securing recourse from governments that neglect their rights. LGBTQ communities often experience persecution from law enforcement, with documented cases of the police arresting and sexually abusing people. This practice is often enabled by discriminatory legal frameworks based on so-called “good morals” laws and even allowing “corrective” rape.
For many marginalised groups, reporting corruption is not an option. Too often, their complaints and concerns are ignored by authorities who refuse to take them seriously, while reporting wrongdoing can expose people to further harm from officials who themselves harbour discriminatory attitudes.
As anti-corruption efforts falter across Latin America and the Caribbean – or are dismantled by some governments – there is an urgent need to tackle the abuses of power that drive inequality and enable human rights abuses. We must address this now for all people – but especially for women, girls, indigenous groups, LGBTQ communities, the elderly, migrants and Afro-descendants.
Heads of state and governments have repeatedly committed to anti-corruption efforts, as outlined by the Lima Commitment and reaffirmed at the IX Summit of the Americas this year. But promises have gone unfulfilled – it's time for immediate action to stop rampant inequality and discrimination in the region.
Specifically, to advance equal rights for the groups at risk of discrimination when implementing anti-corruption commitments, leaders across the region should:
- Embed plural, representative and open participation from these communities in the design of anti-corruption and transparency policies.
- Guarantee access to and protection from the justice system for all groups at risk of discrimination.
- Create strong, safe and gender-sensitive reporting mechanisms for these groups to report abuse.
- Produce, collect and manage disaggregated and reliable data on the impact of corruption on marginalised groups to better understand the situations they face.
- Create regulatory frameworks focused on combating the structural causes of discrimination and the differentiated impact of corruption on groups facing discrimination.
- Develop and implement legislation to confront and end sextortion and ensure justice systems have the right tools to address these types of cases.
- Raise awareness across society – especially among public officials – to recognise and change their own discriminatory behaviours through education and sensitisation training.
Poder Ciudadano Argentina
Transparência Internacional Brasil
Transparency International Canada
Transparencia por Colombia
Costa Rica Íntegra
Participación Ciudadana Republica Dominicana
Fundación Ciudadanía y Desarrollo Ecuador
Funde El Salvador
Acción Ciudadana Guatemala
Transparency Institute of Guyana
Asociación para una Sociedad Más Justa Honduras
National Integrity Action Jamaica
Fundación para el Desarrollo de la Libertad Ciudadana Panama
Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute
Transparency International US